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The Statsies: Despite a slight possession advantage, the Canucks were out-chanced in a disastrous home opener

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Photo credit:© Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 month ago
I think this is all that needs to be said about last night’s game:
The Vancouver Canucks dropped their home opener 5-1 against the Buffalo Sabres, further digging themselves into an early hole that appears to be increasingly hard to surmount. There isn’t much margin for error at this point if this club still wants to make the playoffs.
Here’s how this loss played out, by the numbers.
As always, you can find our glossary guide of advanced stats here.

Game Flow

Last night’s game flow chart paints a generous picture of how the game went for the Canucks. The first period was indeed a back and forth affair, and the Canucks did manage to swing possession and expected goals in their favour during the second frame. However, in the second period, they also began to yield more scoring chances against than for, as well as yielding their HDCF% share to 20%.
It only got worse from there, as Vancouver started to unravel from that rough start to the third. By the end of the final period, the Canucks had given up the possession advantage which led to Buffalo completely dominating them in scoring chances (11) and high-danger chances (9). The xGF% also unravelled, with the Sabres at a ridiculous 80.09% coming from an 2.01 xGF. The Canucks recorded 0.5 xGF during the third.

Heat Map

It feels like a broken record to repeat this, but the Canucks once again have given up way too many high danger chances in the slot area. The fact that it’s this deep blue is tremendously concerning, along with how expansive that patch is. It’s one thing if the Sabres attempted a lot of high-danger shots from one area, but for it to spread from faceoff circle to faceoff circle is seriously not good.
As for Vancouver, they didn’t get nearly enough chances to match. Their red is a lighter shade than one would hope, and even for a hypothetical run-and-gun team, they’re going to need a lot more than that to record a win this season.

Individual Advanced Stats

Corsi Champ: Ilya Mikheyev becomes the latest Russian to earn this title, recording a team-leading 70.97 CF%. He led the team in scoring chances for (16), but remarkably, only one of them was considered high-danger. It shouldn’t come as a surprise however, as there were a couple of moments where Mikheyev appeared to get too cute with the puck, resulting in him taking a shot with decreased odds for success.
Corsi Chump: This game’s chump is Dakota Joshua with an abysmal 16.67 CF%, putting his CF% rel in the basement (-43.54). Luckily, Joshua was only limited to 10:46 minutes this game, but he simply did not look good at all. Joshua conceded 9 scoring chances against, 5 of which were high-danger, and yielded a measly xGF% of 7.62. After one strong game, Joshua looks to have regressed hard against the Sabres.
xGF: Feels like this one should just be christened the Andrei Kuzmenko award. He led all Canucks again in both the xGF (1.42) and xGF% (71.22%) department and got a number of chances to make them count. However, Kuzmenko remained off the scoresheet, which is frustrating for a team in desperate need of a spark.
GSAx: Thatcher Demko gets more leeway than any other player on this team for good reason. However, he’s looked suboptimal thus far into the season, after coming into camp with declarations of being one of the best netminders in the league. Demko once again finds himself in the negatives in GSAx, putting up -1.42 in this loss against the Sabres. He’s currently sporting a 4.30 GAA and a 0.861 SV%, which wouldn’t have even made the cut in the 80’s.

Statstical Musings

All the chances, no finish: Looking off the statsheet, the Kuzmenko-Pettersson-Podkolzin line led the way in xGF% (65.55), xGF (0.88), HDCF (5.43) and HDCF% (70.15). They’re one of only two lines to record anything on the HDCF charts, with Pearson-Horvat-Boeser tallying 0.87 HDCF. This is all well and dandy, being the best line this team has — until you consider that they haven’t scored. It is simply not good enough to just outchance another team because expected goals is just that — expected. The likelihood of scoring is something you do want to increase, for the purpose of scoring. This line, as good as it has been, has not done that.
Jack Rathbone’s debut: The long awaited season debut of Jack Rathbone was not the best. He didn’t play poorly by any stretch, but it is clear that he still needs some work. Rathbone posted the second-worst SCF% (47.62), only beating out AHL tweener Noah Juulsen in that category. He also was the worst defenceman in HDCF% (14.29), yielding 6 HDCA while only picking up one HDCF, as well as in xGF% (31.44). This all came during 17:23 TOI, meaning that Rathbone did pick up some tough competition.
Bring back Höglander: This isn’t to say so much that Nils Höglander has seized his opportunity before Mikheyev returned, but more so that the fourth line is just not doing good at all. It’s another game where they’re bringing up the rear in CF% (20.03), xGF% (10.97), and HDCF% (0.00). Nils Åman aside, there isn’t a lot going right on this line, and things should be mixed up and changed to see if a chemical reaction can happen.
Wyatt’s favourites: I do want to give a slightly positive shoutout here on behalf of The Stanchion. Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs were the only two Canucks defencemen to post positive xGF rel numbers (4.46 and 4.29 respectively), as well as leading the defence in SCF% (58.33, 52.17). This being said, if your best two defencemen offensively are Luke Schenn and Kyle Burroughs, chances are, you aren’t a good team.

As a team

CF% – 53.45% HDCF% – 30.77% xGF% – 46.00%
Though the Canucks might’ve had a small possession advantage, they got picked apart by a speedy, strong, and brilliant puck-moving Sabres team. Buffalo had their way with Vancouver in high-danger chances, easily deserving the 5-1 result they earned tonight. The Canucks now turn to Monday’s matchup at home against the Carolina Hurricanes to see if they can get anything going.
Stats provided by naturalstattrick.com

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